Saturday, February 25, 2012

Talk To Me About Your Faith, But…

There’s an abundance of ideas that people have about the Creator. I don’t knock any of them unless they try to hard sell me that theirs are undoubtedly right and that I have to give up mine and take on the ones they have. I, on the other hand, probably have nothing to teach them since they’ve positively made up their own minds, case closed, about the nature of reality. They probably won’t be that interested in what I have to say, anyway. I’m of the opinion that if God intended to plainly reveal his plan of salvation He would have done so in such a way that there would be no doubt about who He is and what one must do to obtain deliverance.  Everywhere and at every moment there would be a complete agreement as to how the universe was created,  the plan for humankind, God’s intervention in the workings of the world and the nature of redemption. Someone may say, “Well, it’s in the Bible plain as day and quote John 3:16 but there are many different notions about the meaning of that verse among various Christian groups. The Catholic Church, for example, teaches that one must become a Catholic for one to truly understand God and that includes following the teachings of the Church. It is interesting though, that the Church teaches that one does not have to be a Catholic to be saved while many evangelical sects require adherence to their dogma to be.  So what about other faiths? Judaism does not recognize that Jesus was the promised Messiah and has very good arguments for that and its views on the nature of salvation. Hindus and Muslims have their own ideas about Jesus that seem equally valid as well. Now I believe that there is a basis for belief in some intelligent creative power that under girds all existence. I think most do but there are some that are staunch atheists that can find no evidence for it. I don’t try to argue with them about it and just state my beliefs and that’s it and they usually don’t try to impose their disbelief on me, either. Certain theists, on the other hand, having placed such an importance on the correctness of their teachings are often inclined to making a big deal out of their big God and turn off others in doing so. They actually seem to imprint their biases onto their deity with the requirement that others in turn must follow what they have uncompromisingly posited as  The Truth.

Often when I think about Jesus’ sayings, it seems like many of those that profess to follow him look amazingly like the very souls that Jesus berated in the gospels. They are self-assured, pushy, argumentative, hypocritical, self-righteous and oblivious to the haughty way they come across to those they’re preaching to and most often minimize the parts of his sermons that stress mercy, understanding and tolerance in favor of those sayings that promise an eternity in hell for those who don’t believe as they do. Besides Jews, only Hindus and Buddhists appear to have envisioned enough room in heaven for those other than themselves and though each may think their religion better, they seem to have the capacity to stress agreement over difference.

We live in a complex world where political, economic and social forces are impacting believers and non-believers alike and there may be a time coming soon when it will be risky to lay claim to faith in any one of the world religions. Society has developed a tradition of tolerance over the last few centuries in which there is a healthy degree of distance between State and Church but this may not last if we lose a large part of the civilization we have come to enjoy. Many, both in and out of religious circles have noticed a quiet consolidation of power by elites who have blatantly lied to us about many things including the real reasons for going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 9/11 attacks, the Tonkin Gulf Incident, the overthrow of democratic republics such as Mohammed Mossadegh’s Iran and many more going all the way back to World War I and beyond. What palpable silence from the pulpits of so many different faiths when their priests, rabbis, imams and pastors could have taken a prophetic stance and alerted their flock to the deception that was and is plainly evident and pervasive in high places within government and banking. Why are they still holding back now as we are being robbed before our eyes by highly placed rip-off artists in Armani suits?  Could it be that they afraid of losing their precious 501C3 tax-exempt status or some other state-sanctioned benefit?

So I’m more than glad to talk to you about your faith, just don’t pass judgement on those like me who happen to have a different point of view than your own. More often than not one can find a greater abundance of truth telling among those who choose to keep their religious beliefs to themselves than those who are most ardently trying to push the wayward sheep hurriedly into the Kingdom. As Jesus himself said, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matt. 7:15)  Have you looked inside yourself to root out your own waywardness? Are you really sure you can distinguish between a sheep and a wolf just because of what you have absorbed from your spiritual leader? Rather than obsessing so as to how to convert me, wouldn’t it be better to first take out the log from your own eye before taking out the speck in mine? Then we can sit as equals and leave the saving to the will of whose Kingdom we all hope to have a share in.

Sister Peace, Brother War

From what can be observed from all we have learned about history and our own lives, all that exists is locked in tension between two unrelenting forces, death and life and the thrust of all our effort toward satisfaction in our daily undertakings is to promote one over the other. We live in a world of dualities, good and bad, sweet and sour, strong and weak, big and small, war and peace, etc. As each morning breaks, we wake with an increasing awareness of the challenges we must face that day. Some days start out well, others do not and from one moment to the next there are continual adjustments each of us must make to maintain a sense of balance. As babies we have little control over our environment and are dependent upon those that care for us but as we grow we learn the mechanics of how to survive so that in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in at any particular moment we are able to rebalance body, mind and soul. As adults we care for others who benefit from the knowledge, wisdom and experience we have gained over the course of years and into our senior years, there is an even greater ability to tease out meaning from the good, the bad and all that lies in-between.

There are many aspirations people develop as they interact with their environment. Some think very big and are highly motivated with an ability to focus on whatever inspires them to achieve while others are more passive whether it be a result of nature or nurture. Some have physical or mental limitations that impose certain obstacles in their ability to exert control over their environment. Scientists, economists, politicians, auto mechanics, tool and die makers, janitors, etc. all have one thing in common. They all must live and struggle in a world of duality and come to terms with the vagaries of chance occurrence.

Expanding out from the individual there is another dynamic at play, the interaction of the group with other groups. People tend to affiliate with other like-minded individuals to obtain certain advantages they would not have access to on their own. Those affiliations become increasingly more complex as we go from the center to the periphery, from the smaller to the larger in size. Rules are created by groups to provide stability and strength to deal with the variability in human behavior so that all the components of the group benefit more or less equally. Of course, it is very human to try to get around rules since individuals tend to feel dissatisfied with their particular circumstances and decide to break the rules in order to gain some perceived advantage over others. Why is it so human to do so? It is because we live in an imperfect world of dualities where life is really not very fair.

On this planet we are bathed in a medium of both order and chaos, peace and war. When order prevails, people I think tend to fight less since they experience a lesser degree of deprivation. They find ways to cooperate. When chaos increases, social bonds tend to weaken, people become more fearful and will go out and wildly try to grab things which they think will help them survive. This is the state of war. It is a natural condition caused by factors that are both inside and outside of human control. To avoid war, people need to accept certain limits on what they can do – they need to follow rules for civilization to flourish.

So it seems that there will always be times of both peace and war. Everything and everyone is in a moment by moment fight for survival. Utopia can only exist by divine decree since heaven is by definition without duality. Heaven is in itself unity and in that state there can be none of the contrary conditions we find in the world as we know it. Every individual however, according to all the holy writings, has some of the divine nature within so it is therefore logical to assume that we can overcome the warring that exists both inside and outside persons and groups. It is impossible to do away with conflict altogether since we are imperfect beings living in an imperfect world, but we can choose to recognize that part within each of us that is unity and seek to nurture it with the help of God who is by nature, One. There really is no choice but to accept what we cannot change in our lives and so it is necessary to learn live in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. It is in the acceptance that we look to that which is completely whole, perfect and beautiful in each of us. This is something all must learn to do from moment to moment. Within that reality all must resolve themselves to live between two rivaling siblings, Sister Peace and Brother War.

“We all just seeds in god’s hands, we start the same but where we land is sometimes fertile soil and sometimes sand. We’re all just seeds in god’s hands.”


‘Seeds’ written by Pat Alger and Ralph Murphy and performed by Kathy Mattea on the album, ‘Lonesome Standard Time.’